Preview: Port Vale

Where We Are

Following the win over Gillingham last Sunday we are now on a 6 game unbeaten, having won the last two. Last season we were unable to make the jump to 3 wins in a row as our play-off challenge stuttered. A win tomorrow at Vale Park would be another statement of intent for this season. No longer in the relegation zone and on more points this season than this time last 3 points would move us into mid-table and cast all relegation doubts aside.

This week we signed former Rangers youth captain and central defender Stuart Urquhart, largely as one for the future, even a place on the bench isn’t certain. More importantly we signed Jordan Clarke to a new 2 year contract, with hopefully more contrat renewals on the way it is a statement of intent of the club’s owners that the club has a medium and long-term plan. In addition we announced a new shirt sponsor, a local charity, as well as that our new kit will finally arrive in time for the Sheffield United home match on October 13th, a match that looks likely to feature our ex-striker Marlon King.

Off the pitch, a recent statement from the trust seems to indicate a maturing of their position as well as a willingness to put both sides to account and broker a deal to return the club to Coventry. The sounds around the club, ACL and the council seems to suggest a cooling down of the hostilities though it is too early to say whether this can lead to talks resuming anytime soon. What it does show is that it appears to be moving that way, though it seems dependent on whether SISU shelve their plans to buy instead of rent the Ricoh, at least for a couple of years.

Last Time We Met

The last time we played Port Vale in the league was part of a 2-day double header at the end of March 1964. Interestingly enough the competition was the old 3rd Division, aka League One. The result of the two fixtures were both 1-1 as Coventry went on to win the division and promotion to the second tier. Since then Coventry were promoted to the Premier League for over 3 decades, whilst Port Vale flitted between the third and fourth tiers with the ocassional foray into the second.

How Are They Doing?

Last year Port Vale were in administration and could barely scrabble together a squad for the start of the League 2 season. However they went on a remarkable run, led by the goals of previously goal-shy Tom Pope, they finished 2nd in the league behind last week’s opponents Gillingham. This season they have adapted fairly well and are now on a fair better financial footing thanks in part to Coventry City fan Norman Smurthwaite. They are though on a poor run of 4 without a win and will desperate to stay away from relegation troubles as much as possible. By the way their manager is Mickey Adams and he says he has a plan for us.

Tom Pope is clearly their key man with 33 goals in 52 league games over the past 2 years, although their reliance upon his goals has diminished this season compared to last. Their keeper Chris Neal has earned strong reviews this season and has been arguably the key factor in their decent start so far this season.

In defence they have ex-Coventry duo Carl Dickinson and Richard Duffy to keep BBC CW interested. They also have Chris Robertson who was a pain of a centre-back when he played for Preston last season and is a strong player at this level. Jennison Myrie-Williams is a pacey winger who has finally found a home in English football and will be a threat as pacey wingers always seem to be for Coventry. Finally Doug Loft in midfield has been consistent this season and chipped in with a couple of goals for the Valiants.

Prediction

Tomorrow represents another high water mark for Coventry. Win and its three on the trot and we move into that safe zone of mid-table. It also rights the wrong of the points deduction although I expect that to loom over are analyses of the season for long time now. Port Vale though are another physical side in this division and playing with home advantage may increase their intimidation/nuissance factor. It will be yet another test of this developing side’s nerve and mental strength to come out and dominate as well as win this encounter which will be in front of the largest collective of Coventry fans at a match so far this season.

This is a tough one for me to call as I don’t expect this to easy. I predict Coventry City 2 Port Vale 2.

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